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When Nqobile Nkosi began to market himself as the owner of NQ Jewellery Design Services based in Dube, Soweto, people assumed that he used beads and recycled material to make his products. But this isn’t the case, and Nkosi found himself battling perceptions from the moment his business started. "We make contemporary fine jewellery using gold, silver, platinum and diamonds. We compete in the luxury market," says the 33-year-old. At the end of last year Nkosi clinched Tsogo Sun’s entrepreneur of the year award, the latest in a string of accolades for his business. Being a jeweller was not one of Nkosi’s career goals. The aspiring electrical engineer was forced to drop his studies because of funding challenges. His appeal for a bursary fell on deaf ears. A student who overheard him pleading with administrators for the engineering bursary told him to consider a jewellery design and manufacturing programme, which came with funding from the private and public sector. Not wanting to spend...

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